The 10-5-1 Cincinnati Bengals travel to Indianapolis to take on the 11-5 Colts in the first round of the AFC playoffs. These 2 teams last met on October 19th in Indianapolis and the Colts dominated the game winning 27-0 and limited the Bengals offense to 135 total yards. Since that game, the Bengals have won 7 of their last 10 including a huge week 16 win over the Denver Broncos 37-28 which clinched their playoff birth. A big reason for the teams second half success was the emergence of Jeremy Hill as their best running back. Since week 9 when he took over the starting job from Giovani Bernard, he has averaged over 100 rushing yards per game and has scored 6 touchdowns. His 441 rushing yards in the month of December was tops in the league. The Colts went 3-1 over their last 4 games but they were actually outscored 86-76 over that span and the 3 wins came against non-playoff teams. They lost badly in week 16 42-7 to the Dallas Cowboys who are also playoff bound.
Bengals star wide receiver A.J. Green suffered a concussion in week 17 and his status is uncertain for this matchup. . He has caught over 1,000 yards this year and was Andy Daltons favorite target. If he doesn’t play, it would be a serious blow to the Bengals chances of upsetting the Colts and moving on. Green was inactive in week 7 for the game against the Colts when they were shut out and his importance to the offense cannot be overstated. Andy Dalton has lead the Bengals to the playoffs each of the past 3 years but each time, they were bounced in the first round and their offense failed to put up 14 points in all 3 games. Dalton was epically bad in these last 3 playoff games by completing only 57 percent of his passes and throwing 6 interceptions and only 1 touchdown.
The Colts received good news when wide receiver Reggie Wayne announced he is 100% healthy for this game after suffering a groin injury last week. This leaves Andrew Luck with 3 powerful weapons in Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and tight end Colby Fleener who lead the team with 8 receiving touchdowns. The biggest weakness in the Colts offense is the running game. In the last 4 weeks of the regular season they did not have a running back top 60 yards and in week 16’s loss to the Cowboys, they were held to 1 rushing yard. In the second half of the season the Colts only had 3 rushing touchdowns and 1 came from Andrew Luck in week 14.
These 2 teams are pretty evenly matched when at full strength and if A.J. Green is active, expect the game to stay close. Home Field advantage is real, especially in the playoffs and the Colts are 6-2 at home this year. The 100,000+ fans at Lucas Oil Stadium will be ready and so will the Colts.
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